J. D. Salinger’s short story “Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut” perhaps is not my favorite of Salinger’s stories, but as with any great writer, there are flashes of genius.
For me, the conversations between Mary Jane and Eloise, two former college roommates, gave a wonderful snapshot into the semi-high class society of 1940’s New York City and it’s suburbs. I am assuming that the story took place in Connecticut but very close to New York City. The women themselves talk in a slightly overbearing manner but neither are uncomfortable with the other. Mary Jane has a career and Eloise has a family. While they both sometimes question the other’s choices, they both take these questions in stride. Maybe the free flow of alcohol accounts for some of this “stride”.
The strange part of the story deals with Eloise’s daughter Ramona and her imaginary friend, Jimmy Jimereeno. Mary Jane goes out of her way to make Ramona and “Jimmy” feel comfortable; however, her mother seems to find Ramona’s ways difficult to handle. There is a hint of racism on the part of Eloise toward her maid – but only a hint. This is similar to Salinger’s story “Down at the Dinghy” where the racism is buried until the very end when it becomes subtly apparent.
And then the even stranger part comes with the mention of Uncle Wiggily when one of the ladies relates a story about her hurt ankle and a former boyfriend. Why Salinger brings Uncle Wiggily into the picture, I’m not sure. I’m only vaguely familiar with Uncle Wiggily, who I believe was a rabbit in children’s’ stories. I remember playing a very old version of a board game designed around Uncle Wiggily. I’m still not sure, though, about his role in the story, unless it is simply an example of pop culture in the 1940’s. Or perhaps it has something to do with the innocence (or loss thereof) of children – another theme Salinger intertwines into his writing. Or there could be some kind of secret to the title that I just haven’t figured out.
I think I’m going to go with the representation of innocence and it’s loss.
This is the sixth story I’ve read from Salinger’s compilation, Nine Stories. Three more to go! And these three are still “in the deck”.
Here is another post on this story by Jay at Bibliophilopolis. It’s interesting that this story was his “King of Hearts” last year. And also a thanks to him and his post for allowing me to not publish this post with “Uncle Wiggily” misspelled.
I’ll also use this story for a tie-in to my recent vacation. I visited New York City for the first time. I didn’t travel there by way of Connecticut, though. It was Philly, across the Delaware River, then New Jersey to the Lincoln Tunnel and there was Manhattan – Times Square, Central Park – it was everything I thought it would be!